By Jake Donovan
There’s anticipation… and then there is waiting.
Fans anxiously awaited the opening round of matches in the Super Six World Boxing Classic from the moment it was officially announced nearly two years ago.
There was still a fair amount of anticipation in the air when Stage Two rolled around, even if featured a participant drop out and two separate delays.
Ever since then, the boxing world has simply waited… and waited… and waited for the Super Six to finally hit the home stretch.
The series hasn’t quite yet reached that point, but boxing fans will be relieved when the waiting comes to an end this weekend. Tournament favorite Andre Ward takes on fourth-seeded Arthur Abraham in the first of two semifinal matchups spaced three weeks apart, with the hope of matching up the winners in a tournament championship that comes sooner rather than later.
Before any of that happens, we still need to get through this weekend, which brings things back to the anticipation portion of the equation.
Of all of the Super Six matchups that have come about over the past 19 months, this weekend’s headliner at the Home Depot Center in Carson, California has been the least embraced and most criticized of the bunch.
A healthy portion of the criticism stems from the fact that little to no momentum is carried into Saturday’s event, which airs live on Showtime at 10PM ET.
The semifinal bout comes six months after any of the Super Six contestants were last seen in action.
It’s also paired with an exclusive replay of last weekend’s pay-per-view stinker between Manny Pacquiao and Shane Mosley, a fight few will be in a hurry to watch – even for a first time, for those who passed on the live viewing.
There’s also the concern of that matchup itself carrying the threat of not being very competitive.
Ward (23-0, 13KO) has advanced from rising talent to future superstar over the course of the tournament. He turned in a career-best performance in an upset win over Mikkel Kessler, and enjoyed a 2010 campaign that saw the Oakland native easily turn back the challenges of Allan Green and Sakio Bika.
The latter bout had no bearing on the tournament, as Ward had already secured a number-one seed before even stepping foot in the ring that evening. He has also inserted himself on the very short list of the world’s best super middleweights.
The concept of the Super Six World Boxing Classic is taking on one tough matchup after another, that one loss doesn’t ruin a career and that its winner will have a hell of a case for claiming to be the absolute best super middleweight on the planet.
All of it still applies, but just not necessarily to this weekend’s fight.
There are only two other fighters on the planet who can legitimately challenge Ward at the moment for divisional bragging rights.
Unfortunately for fans and the tournament organizers, neither one of those fighters will be standing in the opposite corner on Saturday evening.
The strangest thing about this matchup is that it pits the current favorite against the tournament’s original scoreboard leader in Abraham (32-2, 26KO), yet few are optimistic of it being competitive.
Ward’s dominant run over the past 19 months are a big part of it. So too, is the fact that Abraham managed to squander every last drop of momentum he enjoyed ever since knocking our Jermain Taylor in the first bout of the round robin series.
Abraham provided the Super Six – and the sport itself – with a major jump start with his last second heroics, knocking Taylor out of the fight and ultimately out of the tournament.
That win came on October 17, 2009.
It was the last time Abraham has been able to enjoy the thrill of victory.
Two very lopsided losses followed in 2010 – his disqualification against Andre Dirrell in a bout that saw the transplanted Armenian hit the deck for the first time in his career, and then an absolute schooling at the hands of Carl Froch, who has quietly become the tournament darkhorse.
Abraham had a chance to regain the lead in on the Super Six scoreboard with a knockout win, but he never came close to that, and arguably never came close to winning a round as he was dominated throughout their 12-round contest.
Yet on the heels of two humiliating defeats (though followed by a tune-up win earlier this year), Abraham finds himself in line for an alphabet title shot.
Such a lead in is precisely why fans have been made to feel as if they’re waiting for the series to resume, rather than anticipate its return.
If there’s any bit of justice to come from his latest title shot, it’s that Abraham is forced to travel to California, although this weekend’s location has served as another point of contention.
Many have taken issue with the fact that Ward is the only member of the tournament who was never required to fight outside of his home state, with his two official Super Six bouts and subsequent stay-busy fight all taking place at the Oracle Arena in Oakland.
Ward isn’t exactly traveling abroad by heading six hours south to Carson, although a consolation prize for Abraham is that the location is approximately 30 minutes from Armenian-rich Glendale.
Still, the opening bell of this weekend’s match means one more step towards closure. Not to mention that waiting on the other side is perhaps the most desirable matchup of the the tournament, when Carl Froch faces Glen Johnson in early June.
With that in mind, six months of waiting is now an opening bell away from renewed anticipation.
Let’s just hope we get to anticipate a scheduled finale that doesn’t require any more extended waiting.
Jake Donovan is the Managing Editor of Boxingscene.com. Follow Jake on Twitter at twitter.com/JakeNDaBox or submit questions/comments to [email protected] .